Solace Lost: A True Dark Fantasy
TRIGGER WARNING: Before we dive into the depths of this review, I want to emphasize that readers of Solace Lost should be ready for very mature, adult content. The story grapples with trauma resulting from sexual assault, and the scenes may trigger some readers.
Solace Lost, by Michael Sliter, explores a dark fantasy world rife with murder, magic, and mayhem. Its principle characters, Fenrir and Merigold, experience tragedy after tragedy on their journey toward finding some semblance of peace in their lives. Their lives intersect with each other in unexpected ways, culminating in a final series of battles that push each character to their limits.
Overall, I enjoyed Solace Lost, though it was a difficult book to read. As indicated above, I must emphasize the need for a trigger warning for readers prior to opening this book. Readers may be caught off guard by the graphic description in a few particular scenes. I almost had to stop reading.
I’m glad I didn’t.
Both Fenrir and Merigold’s stories are interesting in their own right, but by the end, I truly only cared about what happened to Merigold. As she recovers from serious trauma, she explores a side of herself she had hid from for years. She’s gaining power in a world that perceives her as ‘less than,’ as forgettable, as sometimes even evil. Her story makes me want to read the sequel.
At times, I found it difficult to follow Fenrir’s plot. His character didn’t grip me. It’s not that it’s boring or a bad story; it’s that every time I wasn’t reading Merigold’s story . . . I wanted to be reading Merigold’s story. I could have been reading a book that was only her chapters and I would have been perfectly happy. I think that speaks to the power of Sliter’s writing; he told a plot so compelling I wanted to literally skip entire chapters to get to the next part.
Sliter’s produced a fantasy story in Solace Lost that sets up a world ready for future exploration. Fans of George R.R. Martin and Game of Thrones will want to dive into this story as they wait for the sixth book, for the grey morality, brutal themes, and political intrigue of those stories blends into Sliter’s writing.
I’m excited to watch Sliter’s career with great interest, for Solace Lost sets the bar high. And it looks readers already have the next story to dive into, for Wisdom Lost, the sequel, released a few days ago.
Writing: 8/10. Sliter’s writing and descriptions are compelling, and he bravely dives into disturbing content few writers traverse successfully. I rarely increase the writing score above a six or seven; if the book had been a bit shorter or had fewer POVs, I think it could have benefited greatly and achieved even higher marks. The superbly written and compelling narrative of Merigold overshadowed the other chapters, making it hard for me to read those chapters (even though they too were well written).
Characters: 8/10. Merigold carries the crew.
Plot: 8/10. As I’ve emphasized many times, Merigold carries the plot. Fenrir’s story was good, but it was overshadowed by Merigold’s.
Setting: 8/10. Solid fantasy setting. By the end of the book, you really start to get a picture for a larger conflict and world beyond the initial pages, and it’s fun to see it expand.
Overall: 8/10. Solid four stars. Well done, Sliter!